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The Saxifrage School to bring new college experiment to Millvale

The Saxifrage School is on the move. With plans to launch a new, community-integrated college, the organization is seeking space in Millvale for their next storefront project set to begin later this summer.

Saxifrage founder Tim Cook says his group hopes to spark conversation within the community by activating an empty storefront, and demonstrating what that college could actually look like in Millvale.

"The best way to really get to know a place is to actually be there," Cook says.

The school would not have a traditional campus. Instead, classes would be taught in vacant spaces, churches, at coffee shops and bars. Cook says the project doesn't work without community buy-in.

"It's very much founded on the basis that it needs to be supported by all these partner organizations...and that's the only way that it will work," Cook says.

Saxifrage was most recently operating in the former Firewarters Saloon building across from PNC Park. The school is planning similar projects in the Northside and East End.

"If you think about higher education, you think about cathedrals of learning, and castle-like academic buildings," Cook says. "[But] higher education is not about the buildings, and it's not about the absurd cost, it's about actual student outcomes, people learning how to live well, work well, and change the world potentially."

By integrating into the community, the school hopes to limit tuition to around $5,000, offering a more affordable alternative to traditional colleges. The school is being founded, in part, as a response to rising costs in tuition and student debt.

Each Saxifrage student would pick two majors, one in the liberal arts tradition, and one in a more technical field, such as home building, organic gardening, or computer programming. Cook says the Saxifrage School hopes to better prepare students for success as well-rounded individuals with practical skills for everyday life.

"So theoretically then you graduate being a great communicator, and philosopher, and poet, but also know how to build a house," Cook says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Tim Cook

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